Salvation Army: “Nothing has changed”

Proceedings continued yesterday on the Case Study 10 hearings by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse into the Salvation Army (Eastern Territory), with a focus mainly on how the Salvation Army responded to abuse allegations, to put things rather simply.

As has been covered in the media, it was another day of shocking abuse claims against the Salvation Army, including a heartbreaking account of his experiences by the witness known as ‘FE’.

Rather than repeat what has already been quite adequately covered in the Australian press, the author shall merely provide a series of links to relevant articles (see ‘Read more here’ below) and a brief mention of a few of the things that were reported as having been said by witnesses in yesterday’s hearings.

The reader will forgive the author for omission of some of the more explicit accounts of abuse, the author being unable yesterday to have done more than bear witness to the telling of some of them, still finding herself unable right now to dwell too much of these matters, they being still a little too ‘close to home’.

Apart from these matters (please do read the links below to learn even more of the atrocities committed at Salvation Army ‘homes’, if you are able – if someone can live it, we can read it), a distinct anger can be discerned by anyone reading media accounts of witness’s attitudes to Salvation Army conduct.

Some of the reported comments made by witnesses about Salvation Army processes include the following:

Why is it you [Ed: The Salvation Army] cannot sit down and give us what we require? Why [do] you say you don’t have the information when you get us to painstakingly take days, months, weeks and years to continually write an impact statement for you?”

“Sometimes people would say that they felt very hurt by the process.”

“The Salvation Army sat and did nothing in those dark years, although they say again, under oath, things have changed.” “Well, nothing has changed. While they say they are sorry, they are not. What they want is for all of this to go away.”

But the last word in this regard must be given to witness Allan Anderson, who pulled no punches when he said:

“Boys and girls’ lives were damaged and any compensation should come from the organisation’s pockets, not the public’s.”

“I see the Salvation Army as not changed, but hidden a lot, and professing to all that they are a kind and caring organisation.”

“Let me suggest to the public as a whole … think twice before you put your hand in your pocket when the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal comes around, for you should not give so generously.”

Readers of this blog will recall that the author made the same call as Mr Anderson on 26 March, 2014: This was largely missed by the media, although it was reported by ‘The Brisbane Times’.

Quite coincidentally, and unbeknownst to the author, her media release went out the day before the Salvation Army’s Brisbane launch of its 2014 Red Shield Appeal:

At this launch, ‘Commissioner’ James Condon of the Salvation Army said to his (apparently anxious) guests, “I want to assure you there is no donated funds through the Red Shield Appeal, or any other means, that is used for compassionate grants to the survivors.”

‘Commissioner’ Condon did not say whether donated funds through the Red Shield Appeal are ever applied to pay for the Salvation Army’s legal representatives who work to block the legal claims of victims who attempt to go down the civil litigation route rather than through the Salvation Army’s own processes.

Earlier, in relation to the gross insensitivity of Salvation Army ‘officers’ wearing its quasi-military uniforms in public where victims might see them, a very spirited witness, JE, is reported as saying:

“If I see one of those uniforms come within a metre of me, you’d better be there. Okay? Just keep them away from me. If I see that Gestapo come near me …” “I’d like them in plain clothes with an open mind and a genuine heart. That’s how I’d like them.”

This echoes a sentiment the author’s father and other victims of Salvation Army homes have expressed to her and which has been communicated in the past, to the best of her knowledge, to the Salvation Army.

But anyone hovering about in the vicinity of the Royal Commission yesterday couldn’t have missed the approach of several (yes, you guessed it) still uniformed Salvation Army members.

One wonders if, for the remainder of the Case Study 10 hearings, such uniforms might be left at home?

If Salvation Army representatives have trouble working out who is who in their numbers, without the benefit of identifying marks of rank currently used, perhaps they might instead attach a simple number to the front of their clothes?

The author does not know the ranking system used by the Salvation Army [and does not really care to know, truth be told] so she has had to rely on the lyrics to “The Reluctant Cannibal” to guide her in her endeavours.

It could work something like this:

  • The “assistant chief” would be “1” (the “chief,” Andre Cox, not deigning to attend the hearings, of course, thus being irrelevant to the numbering system);
  • The “chief assistant to the assistant chief” would be “2”;
  • The “assistant to the assistant chief” would be ‘3’;
  • And so on … with increasingly lowly Salvos being assigned the numbers 4, 5, etc., depending on their position in the ‘food chain’.

Admittedly, however, this system also might upset victims, many of whom were referred to not by their names but by numbers during their times in Salvation Army children’s ‘homes’ (Lewis Blayse’s number in Alkira was 32) in what can only be surmised to be a deliberate effort to crush the children’s spirits and ‘depersonalise’ them (just in case extreme brutality, inexplicable acts of cruelty, rape, and torture didn’t do the trick).

It’s all a bit difficult, you see, but with a bit of thought, something could be worked out to the satisfaction of all.

Perhaps the Salvation Army could deign to consult with victims and their representatives about this sensitive issue of clothing and come up with some way of attiring themselves in a way that doesn’t distress victims while still allowing the Salvation Army attendees to distinguish one another?

mrs krabappel ha

On a lighter note, a funny happened thing on the way to the commission …

Having decided on the train down to Sydney to focus her energies first and foremost on being there to bear witness to the brave people who keep coming forward and maybe offer a word of support to a couple of people the author knew, she made her way to the hearings ready to do just that. Plans of outside ‘protests’ were shelved for the time being (plenty of time for that sort of thing later, she figured, and she’s kind of already made the point somewhat stridently about how she feels about the Salvos, so it’s all a bit unnecessary to labour the point right now…).

Anyway, she regrets to say she deviated ever so slightly from her new plan.

For who should she bump into on her way into the hearings but the most venerable ‘Commissioner’ James Condon? To her slight shame, in the sheer excitement of being in the presence of such an awfully important man, she forgot herself momentarily (and really, who wouldn’t?), greeting a very impressively uniformed (not a crease in sight!) ‘Commissioner’ Condon with a bright smile, outstretched hand, and a cheerful,

“G’day, Jimmy. How are you?”

A smiling Commissioner Condon took her hand and shook it warmly (and firmly, as one would expect from a man of his great stature – one can tell a lot about a man by the firmness of his handshake, as any well-briefed politician is taught early in his successful political career), enquiring politely,

“Do I know you?”

It’s dreadfully rude not to introduce oneself to a stranger before moving on to enquire how they are. This author’s father raised her better than that. Chastened, she quickly corrected her faux pas, and, so as not to waste the time of this awfully important man with much more important things to do [perhaps coming up with more ingenious “new tactics” to make the 2014 Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal a corker of a money-spinner:] than to listen to the families of Salvation Army victims unable to speak any more on account of being deceased, responded quickly and to the point:

“I’m Aletha Blayse, Jimmy. You might remember me. My Dad was Lewis Blayse. When am I going to get my public meeting?”

[See previous posts for why the author insists on a public meeting with the Salvos].

Commissioner Condon’s smile, the author is sad to say, disappeared rather quickly, just as her hand was dropped rather quickly too.

With a brief shrug of his epauletted shoulders, the great man swivelled 90 degrees, muttered something along the lines of, “When we get the time,” and strode off, leaving the author feeling much like something the great man might have had to scrape off the bottom of his very nicely polished shoes.

To rephrase slightly the words of the founder of the Salvation Army, Sir William Booth, “There are the deserving victims’ family members and the undeserving victims’ family members.” Apparently, insisting upon having a coterie of people present for emotional and legal support and also insisting upon the presence of someone from the media to ensure no ‘silly bugger’ nonsense goes on behind closed doors with no chance of it ever getting out puts one in the latter category.

The author has to say, though, that while she was told, “When we get the time,” she kinda heard, “When this media storm is all over and we can just go back to ignoring you.”

But to end on a slightly more positive note …

The author felt privileged to make what she thought was the ‘new’ acquaintance of a true gentleman and a man genuinely worthy of respect. A man who does not need to parade around in ridiculous pseudo-military garb to convey an air of quiet but steely dignity: the truly impressive Dr Ralph Doughty, JD LLM BBus JP CPA, about whom you can read here, along with a brief account of a man of equally genuine merit and accomplishment, Mr Jim Luthy (soon to be Dr Jim Luthy): The author nearly fell off her chair when the extraordinarily gracious Dr Doughty responded to her somewhat clumsy introduction with polite insistence, a gentle taking of her hand, and every appearance of pleasure, that he had already met her and her father, most likely when she was still a teenager, given the event he was talking about, an event she is unfortunately unable to remember attending.

She is looking forward to hearing much, much more from these two, extremely articulate, gentlemen at today’s hearings.

She hopes you are too. Because just as with all the other institutions examined by the Royal Commission, the Salvation Army’s dark and dirty business is everyone’s business.

Aletha Blayse

Read more here:


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2 Responses to Salvation Army: “Nothing has changed”

  1. wondering says:

    Why is it Woolworths supports the Salvation Army as well at the Government. What has the Sallies done with the money donated for farmers who are crying poor, as well the the bushfire victims and flood victims. Everytime something happens the Sallies have their hands out on the pretence of helping. They are now doing this with the Cairns massacre and they should not be allowed to be involved in anything to do with children.

  2. Frank says:

    I was looking for this certain info for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck

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